Thursday, 10 January 2013

Libya: Al-Magarief claims assassination attempt

In an interview with the Al-Wataniya television channel on 5 January, GNC head Mohamed Al-Magarief revealed that he had been the victim of an assassination attempt which had taken place during his recent visit to Sebha. Al-Magarief had been in the southern city to meet with local officials about the deteriorating security situation in the area.

In the interview, he claimed that on 4 January the hotel he was staying at in Sebha was attacked by gunmen and that his bodyguards engaged in a three hour gun battle with the armed assailants. He asserted that three of his bodyguards were injured and two Special Forces soldiers were killed in the shoot-out.

The Congress head also announced that a special investigation had been launched into the incident but that it had proved inconclusive. He put this failure down to “the sensitivity of the tribal structure and the security situation in the south”.

Yet for all Al-Magarief's claims, there is a strong degree of scepticism inside Libya about whether he was actually the target of an attack or whether he was simply caught up in crossfire. Some of this scepticism has been fuelled by comments made by officials such as Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Adel Al-Barasi, who told Libyan TV that the gunfire was not aimed at Al-Magarief but rather that there had been a tribal clash in the town while he was present.

Likewise, the head of the Sebha local council, Ayoub Zarouq, told the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper, “I don't think there was a direct assassination attempt against Al-Magarief. There are, however, major tensions in Sebha as a result of the availability of weapons and there is arbitrary firing and tribal tensions in the town. I don't believe the news of this assassination attempt is true.

Zarouq went on to explain that it would have been extremely difficult for anyone to target the head of the Congress because of the huge security apparatus he brought with him as protection. Al-Magarief reportedly left Sebha airport with a convoy of at least ten cars and each was carrying two or more security personnel.

As such, there is a lot of talk that the incident was little more than 'hot air' drummed up by Al-Magarief. It certainly appears as though the incident was more a manifestation of the chronic instability and violence that has been blighting the town. Indeed, there were major clashes underway between the Qadhadhfah and the Awlad Suleiman tribes at the time of Al-Magarief's visit. As Zarouq explained, those who were killed in the incident were simply caught up in the arbitrary firing that has become an all too common feature of Sebha since the toppling of the former Qadhafi regime.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

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